The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

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George Lepre
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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by George Lepre » 16 Aug 2015 18:33

Hi HaShomer -

I too considered this possibility, but I concluded that the only information the Israeli military court would have had to work with was what Itzkovitz told them. However, it is possible that the case was covered in the Israeli press. I have a friend who reads Hebrew but I don't even know the year the case was tried.

Best regards,

George

George Lepre
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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by George Lepre » 16 Aug 2015 23:38

It's me again....

I just found Fall's original account of this story. He wrote that the shooting of Stanescu occurred in 1954, so that rules out Stancescu, who was killed in 1950.

During all of 1954, only eight Romanian-born Foreign Legionnaires died in Indochina. Three of them were ethnic Germans (Hientz, Meyer, and Tengler), one drowned (Seres), and one was a captain (Sterman). Of the remaining three, only Vladimir SOLTOJAN was assigned to the 3e REI, but he was a sergeant who died in a hospital after being wounded. Moreover, he joined the Legion in Paris, not the occupied zone of Germany. Also, he was born in May 1924, which means he was barely seventeen at the time the Chișinău killings took place. Fall wrote that Itzkovitz also stabbed Stanescu's son in Romania; this too rules out SOLTOJAN, for if the stabbing did take place, the son could only have been a small boy at the time.

Without conducting archival research, I cannot state unequivocally that this story is false, but from what little is available, it cannot be true the way Fall related it.

George

michael mills
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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by michael mills » 17 Sep 2015 09:23

I remember seeing a movie many years ago that depicted events very similar to those described in that thread, ie a soldier in the French Foreign Legion who lost his family during the war and is serving in Indo-China discovers the man who killed his family serving in the same unit, and takes revenge by killing him.

However, in the movie the protagonist was a Pole, not a Jew.

I would say that the Itzkowitz story is most likely to be fictional, and to fall into the genre of sadistic fantasies about Jewish revenge squads hunting down Nazi perpetrators. The historical fact is that the post-war efforts of Jewish survivors were almost entirely forward-looking, directed towards seeking refuge and settling in new homes, in Palestine and elsewhere. For those who settled in Palestine, their main concern in the late 1940s and 1950s was the contemporary conflict with the Arabs, not the past conflict with the Germans.

Furthermore, the stories about the French Foreign Legion being full of former Waffen-SS men and other German or collaborationist perpetrators hiding from justice are largely fictional. Although there was a sizable component of ethnic Germans serving with the French forces in Indo-China, they were mainly expellees from Eastern Europe and aged in their mid-20s, ie of the same age-group as those listed by George Lepre, too young to have served in the German forces during the war.

George Lepre
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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by George Lepre » 11 Mar 2018 00:19

Hi Everyone -

I just found some new information regarding this case. The French newspaper Le Monde printed a Reuters news story on 22 May 1959 titled "Un Israélien avait traqué le bourreau de sa famille et il finit par l'abattre en Indochine" ("An Israeli Tracks his Family's Executioner and Ends Up Shooting Him in Indochina"). His name is spelled "Itzhovitch" in the article but it's certainly the same man. The article provides us with something of a time line that will aid further research:

1952: Itzhovich emigrates from Romania to Israel

1953: drafted into the IDF. After he learns that the man he is looking for is serving in the Foreign Legion, Itzhovitch asks for a transfer to the Israeli navy. It is from here that he deserts, reaches Italy and eventually France, and enlists in the Legion (date unknown).

Logically, he would have had to have been accepted into the Legion, sent to Africa for training, and then undertaken the nearly month-long boat ride to Indochina. Once in Indochina, he would have had to have:

a) learned which unit the man he was looking for was serving in (provided the man was serving under his real name)
b) as a 2eme classe (E-1 private) obtained a transfer to that exact unit (!)
c) waited for the perfect firefight to occur in which he could kill the man without any officers, NCOs, or other legionnaires seeing him and having him arrested for the murder of another soldier

And all of this had to occur before the Indochina ceasefire on 1 August 1954.

This story is suspicious to say the least....

Best regards,

George

michael mills
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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by michael mills » 11 Mar 2018 05:59

Thanks for the information, George.

On the basis of the timeline, the most logical conclusion is that the story is fictional. There may well have been a person called Itzkowitz who was born in Romania, migrated to Israel in 1952, joined the IDF, deserted, was court-martialled and served a year in prison. But it is next to impossible that he could have got to Indochina and killed somebody called Stanescu within the time-frame.

If there was a real Itzkowitz who deserted from the IDF, then he sounds like a rather dodgy character who would have had no qualms about making up a story about taking revenge on someone who had killed his family during the war. A likely motive for making up such a story could have been to justify his desertion.

The fact that his story was published in Le Monde, a rather leftist newspaper, simply means that in 1959 that newspaper had some rather credulous reporters and/or editors on its staff who were willing to believe any story about victims of anti-Jewish violence taking revenge on the perpetrators.

George Lepre
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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by George Lepre » 11 Mar 2018 23:41

Mr. Mills was wise to use the word "dodgy." I think that is a good word to describe this man's story.

Another point to consider: this man was supposedly assigned to the 3e REI in 1954. This regiment's third battalion spent much of 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, where it was decimated and entered Viet Minh captivity, from which many Legionnaires did not return. Since the regiment's fourth and fifth battalions were comprised of Vietnamese, that means Itzkovitz could only have been assigned to the regiment's headquarters company (CCR, 3e REI), or its first or second infantry battalions. The first battalion (I/3) spent 1954 spread out at 28 different posts in the Bac Ninh area. (Of course, Legionnaire Itzkovitz would have had to have been stationed at the exact same base as his victim - what were the chances!) One hundred volunteers were selected and parachuted into Dien Bien Phu. The second battalion spent the early months of 1954 in Laos.

George

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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by JakobW » 27 Nov 2018 14:34

The story may be a fiction, but if so, it was conceived by Eliahu Itzkovitz himself. He gave an interview in 1959 (after he had served a year in an Israeli military prison for desertion) to the Israeli writer Ram Oren, which was published in the Hebrew language newspaper Yedioth Aaronoth. I do not read Hebrew but have seen an excerpt of the interview, in which Itzkovitz details how he allegedly killed Stanescu. Itzkovitz apparently also had other pending criminal charges against him at the time of the interview.

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Re: The Legend of Eliahu Itzkovitz - true or false?

Post by JakobW » 27 Nov 2018 15:24

Randomly doing a web search, I also just discovered that a 111 page book was published in French last month, by Joshua Gabriel Saada, that claims he promised to tell the story after Eliahu's death. I have not yet read, but it is available (in French only) in ebook format. (Apparently the hard copy was published in 2017).

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